Amendments Nos. 1 and 14 may be taken together.
Dentists Bill, 1984: Report and Final Stages.
Senator Dooge on Committee Stage raised the point that the only definition in this Bill not included in section 2 was the definition of "practice of dentistry" which, of course, is in section 49. Senator Dooge asked that it be placed in section 2 and that section 49 be deleted. I agreed to make this amendment on Report Stage.
In debating the definitions Senator Dooge pointed out that the phrase "profession of dentistry" was used in section 24 (2) but was not defined in the Bill. He inquired whether it was likely to give rise to difficulties. The position is that it was decided in consultation with our legal adviser that it was neither necessary nor desirable to define the phrase for the purposes of the section. In the absence of a definition it can be given its ordinary meaning, namely, it can be interpreted in as wide a way as possible covering anything which might reasonably be regarded as connected with the profession of dentistry. This would embrace such matters as dental education and training and, of course, the actual practice of dentistry. A wide interpretation is suitable for the purposes of the section.
A Chathaoirligh, I am grateful to the Minister for bringing forward this amendment on Report Stage. While there is no substantial change in the meaning or the legal effect of the Bill, the Bill becomes an easier Bill to read. It improves the format of the Bill if the definition is brought forward from section 49 to section 2. In regard to the question of the definition of "profession of dentistry" which comes up in section 24 in a restricted Part of the Bill in regard to the disposal of surplus funds, the argument of the Minister is a reasonable one. One can take the ordinary meaning of "profession" and the ordinary meaning of "dentistry" and if we were to seek to insert a definition of "profession of dentistry" we might draw it on too narrow a basis and tie the hands of the Dental Council in regard to the disposal of funds.
In this connection, the problem of definitions is always a very difficult one. We like to approach a Bill like this and see if we can really tie down the definitions. However, one might say that definitions are things which almost by definition cannot be tied down. One can play a very interesting game by taking a first-class dictionary and looking up a definition in this dictionary and then looking up the definition of the words that are in that definition. If the dictionary is a cheap one it will only take two or three moves before your definition becomes circular. In a more expensive dictionary you may go to five or six words before eventually something is defined in terms of itself. In legislation of this type there are certain things that must be defined. There are others that need not be defined and now we have defined what is proper and with this amendment we have put it in the appropriate place.
Senator Dooge and Senator Robinson sought the inclusion in this section of a statement in general terms of the objectives of the Dental Council. I indicated that I had no objection and that I would have another look at this section for Report Stage. The amendment meets the point by making it the general concern of the council to promote high standards of professional education and professional conduct among dentists. This is very much in line with the wording of the equivalent section of the UK Dentists Act, 1957, which was quoted by Senator Dooge at the time in support of his argument. I considered that this wording meets the case quite well and it would be difficult to improve on it.
A Chathaoirligh, again I am grateful to the Minister for having brought forward this amendment which gives a general objective to the Dental Council. This is appropriate and may well be useful for reasons which I gave on Committee Stage where we debated this at columns 110 to 112 of the Official Report. I have one remaining point in regard to the wording we now have. It is really a question of drafting but, after all, that is what we are here to do.
It appears that to the parliamentary draftsman, the Dental Council or any committee is a neutral thing. In other words, the draftsman uses the word "which" here. Parliamentary draftsmen in other jurisdictions tend to treat a body like the Dental Council as a personal thing and tend to use the words "who" and "whose" rather than "which" and "of which". I just make the inquiry as to whether there is any particular reason for this. When one compares legislation one notices the difference here. One would think that the Dental Council, a committee of distinguished dentists, would have a sufficient touch of humanity about them to merit the use of a personal pronoun here and not treat them as neutral beings.
The convention here is "which". I suppose we are somewhat more stilted in our concepts. I gather that Senator Dooge has made the point that it is the UK practice generally. It is probably something to be commended but the Irish parliamentary draftsman procedure is to stick to the old classic "which".
Another argument for antiquity.
In relation to section 9 (2), Senator Durcan, supported by Senator Dooge made the point that the subsection as drafted gave the Dental Council a virtual veto on future changes by the Minister of the day, by regulation, in the membership of the Dental Council and that this was inherently undesirable. It was suggested that the phrase in the subsection "with the consent of the council" might be replaced by the use of the words "after consultation with" and I undertook to introduce an amendment along those lines on Report Stage.
On behalf of Senator Durcan and myself I am very glad that the Minister has introduced such an amendment. I think it would have been inappropriate that the Dental Council should have a veto over the extension of their own functions. This has been well met by the insertion of this time honoured phrase which first appeared, I understand, in the Electricity Supply Act, 1927. It is now a better section.
I support this amendment. Like the previous speakers I think the section is all the better as a result of the amendment.
I fully support the amendment. I hope that the Minister when in consultation will be wearing, among many hats, the hats of the three groups which we had hoped to include in the representation on the council, namely, auxiliary dental workers, dental students and the consumer in the various regions of the country.
I move amendment No. 4:
In page 9, line 6, after "held" to insert "on a system of proportional representation by means of the single transferable vote and".
The reason for this amendment is to ensure that in the election of members to the council by using the system of proportional representation there would be an opportunity for dental surgeons working in the health boards to have an opportunity to be elected to the council by the numbers engaged in health boards vis-á-vis the numbers of dental surgeons engaged in private practice. If it was a straight voting system it might not give a proper representation. After consultation with the Minister we feel that this would meet our desire to ensure there would be proper representation by all the people engaged in the practice of dentistry, whether in the private sector or in the health boards. We feel that proportional representation, which the Minister and I have defended on more than one occasion, is the appropriate way to do it, so that minority voices will have an opportunity to be represented. It did not work so well in the past. I would hope that in this case it might be more successful.
Senator Ferris's party should have dominated that interest and used his extraordinary influence over this Bill. The situation here would be rather unique. I have been checking through other enactments. It would be quite unique to write in the particular amendment and to that extent I find myself in a rather unique situation.
It is true that it could be put into the regulation made under the section which will govern the election of dentists to the council. I would be quite prepared to do that. I am not sure if I will be long enough in office to do so, but assuming regulations will be made in the near future, say next year or so, I would certainly be constrained to put a provision into the regulations that the PR system by means of a single transferable vote should operate for those elections which would be subject to annulment by the House if it so wished. I have that difficulty, and to that extent the amendment would appear to be unnecessary. However, I would be interested to know how other Members of the House would view the situation in regard to this section and perhaps we could then reach agreement on the matter.
I would not be rigid on this. I just wonder if it is the type of election that would warrant proportional representation. Would this be the very first Bill of this type to provide for proportional representation? Personally I would favour the ordinary straight voting system in this kind of election. It would be my personal choice in that PR might not be the most advantageous system in this situation; it is not very strong one way or the other but I would come down on the side of the straight vote.
I congratulate Senators Dooge and Ferris on their farsightedness in bringing in what could be called a little piece of institutional democracy into the Bill. We have heard a lot about community democracy and the day will come in the not too far distant future when people will be insisting on a much greater distribution of democratic power inside our institutions. If it is a precedent, I think it is an excellent one. If it is not a precedent I am glad we are following somebody else's example. I support the amendment.
I support Senators Dooge and Ferris in asking for this. Wherever possible we should try to make elections as democratic as possible and give the opportunity for minorities to be represented. There is nothing I can add to what Senator Ferris has said. I would like, as the Minister has asked for the views of Members of the House, to express my support for this.
The amendment looks for a statutory requirement that proportional representation should be the means of election. It does so for two reasons. One reason is the general principle which Senator McGuinness has just put forward. All elections held under the authority of the Oireachtas should be as democratic as possible.
I disagree with Senator Fallon about the use of the straight vote. If you have a straight vote here, it does not matter whether there are four, five, six or seven people to be elected, if you allow that vote to take place, you allow a majority to shut out a minority—you allow them to exclude a minority from any representation. This, to my mind, is highly undesirable. Senators will recall that we discussed on Committee Stage at quite some length the question of representation. The view was put forward that it would be highly undesirable if, for example, dentists in private practice were to clear the board absolutely in the election of registered dentists to the Dental Council. It would be equally objectionable if sometime in the future dentists in the public service could clear the board and exclude dentists in private practice.
It seems to me, no matter what direction the profession might take in the future, the minority should be protected. It will make for a better board. It will mean that all opinions will be represented. Seven members are elected in this way. As long as there is an opinion which is strongly held by more than one-eighth of the electorate, that opinion can be represented on the board. When the Minister spoke and made the offer to put in the regulations the requirement for PR, I thought while he was speaking that this is a reasonable way of meeting the question. I would have urged the Minister that, even if he thought he would not be around when the regulations were promulgated, at least he should make the draft regulations immediately and allow the inertia of the Department to take care of the rest.
Having heard Senator Fallon speak in favour of the straight vote, I begin to get a little afraid that even if the present Minister were to write the regulations, Senator Fallon or some of his colleagues might come in and revert to the straight vote, which I would not like to see. Senator Fallon's contribution, rather than persuading me to withdraw the amendment, not to press it on this occasion, has tended to make me think that the amendment is all the more necessary.
I was glad to hear the views of Members on this issue because it is quite a precedent to enact a provision of this nature into legislation governing professional bodies. I assure Senator Dooge that my Department do not suffer from any inertia. They have been kept on their "tippy toes" in relation to this Bill by the profession and, indeed, by Senator Dooge during the course of its passage here. I have no wish to argue against the principle of PR because, as Senator Dooge is well aware, I would not be here today were it not for PR, coming from the kind of constituency which I represent. Senator Dooge is a constituent, distinguished as he is, in that constituency. Therefore, who am I to argue against my constituents, be they Senator McGuinness or Senator Dooge? Having the respect I have for PR I will accept the amendment because it will strengthen the broadly representative character of the council. It will also give a considerable balance and maturity to the profession within its own deliberations. I think it would be useful.
I thank the Minister for defending the PR system. In this context it is very important and I am delighted with the Minister's attitude.
I move amendment No. 5:
In page 10, line 31, after "Act" to insert "other than section 29".
Our longest discussion on Committee Stage was on section 29 of the Bill. It was the part of the Bill that deals with the register of dental specialists on which there was the greatest gap between the Minister and the Senators who were taking an interest. At the conclusion even of that very long discussion, Senator Ferris and I withdrew our amendments. Senator Fallon did not press his amendments on that section. In other words, we accepted in regard to section 29 that, while we disagreed with the Minister, we would not seek to obstruct him in the enactment of section 29 for the establishment of a register of dental specialists in the form originally proposed.
It is in the light of that debate that this amendment to section 15 has been put down. We are back to a key question which ran through our debate on Second Stage, Committee Stage and now it is coming up on Report Stage, with regard to the exact limits of the autonomy of the Dental Council to be established under this Bill. It seems to me that since Senators have given way on section 29, it is appropriate to ask the Minister not to insist on having the power under section 15 to override the decision, the discretion, the informed opinion of the Dental Council in regard to the question of a dental register. It seems to me that the Minister would lose very little by the acceptance of this amendment. If the Minister cannot persuade the Dental Council at any time to move in this direction, then it is not going to be solved by the operation of section 15.
I support Senator Dooge in this amendment. I do not think there is any need to go over again the long arguments that were made on Committee Stage on section 29 which, unfortunately, I was not present to take part in. Many other Senators, particularly Senator Robinson, expressed the feelings I have about this section. I think that acceptance of the amendment would leave a certain amount of openness to the Dental Council to decide whether the establishment of this sort of register of specialists is necessary or desirable, and not put them in the position where they can be forced to bring it in even if they themselves think it is undesirable. There are the dangers that were drawn attention to of people being constantly referred to specialists rather than to ordinary general practitioner dentists. There needs to be some measure of freedom left to the Dental Council with regard to whether they will establish these sorts of registers or not.
I regret that despite the protracted discussion we had on this issue, even now on Report Stage the amendment, for very good reasons, is still not acceptable to me. I have gone a very long way from the original draft of the Bill, my original approach in the Bill, in relation to section 15. Objections were raised and a number of them are still being repeated today. I went a long way by indicating that any particular order which the Minister of the day would make under that section would be subject to annulment by either House of the Oireachtas. That approach on Committee Stage providing for such prospective annulment was a major change and provided a very reasonable safeguard over all in the Bill.
While I appreciate the sentiments of Senators Dooge and Ferris in this regard I think the amendment would be imposing an unnecessary prohibition on prospective ministerial action in this area. I think that would be quite excessive. Its effect would be formally to exclude the setting up of a register of dental specialists from the functions which the Minister could by order direct the council to discharge. Therefore, there would be a total removal of the ultimate—it would have to be ultimate—power on the part of the Minister of the day. It is essential that he should retain some residual powers to issue a final directive in the event of total impasse arising. Even then that would be subject to annulment. For example, if there was a clear majority of the dental profession who considered that the establishment of a specialist register would be a very necessary and appropriate development, and the majority of the profession felt that way, the council of the day could still refuse to do so and the Minister of the day would have no prospective ability under that provision so to direct the council.
That would clearly occur only if there was total confrontation between the Minister of the day and the council of the day. He would have to have very good public reason before he would exercise that residual opportunity open to him under the Act because he would be subject to annulment in a debate in the House.
Therefore, the principal arguments advanced by me for the retention of the power is that should the establishment of a register become necessary in particular circumstances it would be obviously unacceptable if the council should refuse and continue to refuse, for whatever reason. The Minister would be excluded from having any opportunity in the public interest to direct the council to go ahead and set up a register even though it had become clearly obvious and necessary that such a register would be appropriate in the public interest. Therefore I would be reluctant to accept the amendment.
I think I have gone a long way. There are varying views even now within the profession. Indeed, going back over old Departmental records I recall that in the past few years there was a well attended meeting of the Dublin Metropolitan Branch of the Irish Dental Association which passed by a very clear majority a resolution in favour of the introduction of a specialist register. I find it somewhat difficult to understand what I would call some of the more recent opposition which emerged to this concept. It is nothing new at all.
Even that decision would not necessarily influence my approach to this section. The approach is that the Minister for Health of the day would be very wise to retain a degree of ultimate residual power which admittedly it might be argued he could exercise under other sections of the Bill. I would hold that it is relative in a very pertinent way to section 15. Having succeeded in a very major realignment of the whole approach of this Bill and having agreed very many amendments even on Report Stage today, I would suggest to the House and to the movers of the amendment that my accommodation has been reasonable and fair and should not be strained any further in that regard.
I accept the Minister's rationale. He knows our views and our feelings on it and the reason why we felt that this type of amendment might meet objections. Basically, what we were trying to do was to ensure that the profession itself would expand its role in the area of general practice in health care. The members of the profession in their working relationship tend to refer people to members with special expertise that certain dental surgeons can acquire. They do it from experience.
I did not want legislation to create an elitist group of dentists in the country and hence my reservations about this section. I realise that there may not be a necessity in the interim period to have a special register of dental specialists but I understand that there is possible EEC legislation that might make this imperative. For that reason I do not think we will press the amendment. The Minister has obviously confirmed to the House that it would be in the most extraordinary circumstances that he would implement the powers to remove the council from office in the event of their not performing certain functions and duties. I am sure that they will perform this function if and when the need arises. At the moment I cannot see the need for it.
I hope the Minister, in viewing the actual need to remove the council if they do not perform this function, will have regard to the actual need at any given time for a register of dental specialists having regard to commitments within the EEC. The Minister has been very fair to us. He has gone a long way towards trying to ensure that this legislation will be good legislation, that it should be fair and protect everybody through the provision of the services in the health boards. He has gone 90 per cent of the way and it is the way we want to proceed. The Minister understands the feelings of Members on all sides of the House. For that reason I will not press the amendment to a vote. I accept the Minister's explanation, I am sure he will understand the reasons why we did not want to create an elitist group of people at this stage; it may be necessary in the future.
I would like to join in the sentiments of Senator Ferris and say that one of the refreshing things about the way in which this debate has developed is that there seems to be a balance in thinking between the needs of the specialists and the needs of the generalists. Whereas in the fifties and in the sixties, in the way in which the public perceived the health care deliveries systems they were seeking, there was a consumer need for seeking more and more specialised attention, there is now increasingly an awareness that the specialist sees the fragment and not the whole. I think young professional people and the new generation of people are now more concerned to see the whole; for example, they do not want to think that the organ is being separated from the person, the person from the family and so on.
I welcome the approach that has been taken to this debate. People seem to be quite conscious of the need for specialisation and super-specialisation but we must always keep that in proper perspective. There has been a great danger in recent years, through the media and through consumer consciousness that in the hierarchy of values, a specialist is put on a higher rung than a generalist. The generalist sees the whole, the specialist the part; at least that is the trend by way of training. We must always keep that to the forefront of our thinking when we are dealing with a subject such as this.
This matter has been thoroughly debated. I still hold the conviction I have held to but I think it would only be fair if this House, acknowledging the fact that the Minister has accepted our position and our arguments on so many points, that, even if we still disagree with him, we should not seek to impose on him in regard to this amendment. I would seek the leave of the House to withdraw amendment No. 5.
Amendments 6 and 7 are related and may be discussed together.
On Committee Stage I accepted an amendment moved by Senators Dooge and Ferris which inserted the present subsection, namely subsection (4) in section 15, the purpose of that subsection being to make orders of the Minister of the day subject to annulment by either House of the Oireachtas. I have been advised by the parliamentary draftsman that it is now necessary to insert a new subsection (4) giving the Minister of the day power to amend or to revoke an order made under the section. Amendment No. 6 does this. It has also been pointed out by the draftsman that the section as amended on Committee Stage is flawed in regard to an order under subsection (2) removing the members of the council from office. If an order removing the members from office were annulled by either House of the Oireachtas this annulment would be, and I quote: "without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder", Whether the members of the council would be in or out of office, it would then be quite unclear. Accordingly, it could be held that the annulment of the order would not mean that the members of the council would be restored to office since the validity of anything done under the order prior to its annulment would not be prejudiced. It is a complicated roundabout way of explaining this to the House. Amendment No. 7 effectively replaces subsection (4) as inserted on Committee Stage and provides a solution to this problem, namely the restoration of membership which had been destroyed by way of an order in the event of the order being negatived.
The House will be grateful to the Minister for tidying up what was done here on Committee Stage. It shows the value of our procedures in having a separate Report Stage. There is now the added flexibility of amending orders which removes the doubt about whether the Minister could make successive orders. There is also the removal of the doubt in regard to the case of removal from office. Amendments Nos. 6 and 7, proposed by the Minister certainly improve the Bill.
As one of the people who spoke in favour of the original amendment on Committee Stage, I too, would like to welcome this new amendment. I feel that it improves the position as it was put in the drafting on Committee Stage. It tidies up the present situation.
Amendment No. 9 is consequential on amendment No. 8 and the amendments Nos. 8 and 9 may be discussed together.
I move amendment No. 8:
In page 11, to delete lines 39 to 50 and in page 12, to delete lines 1 to 6 and substitute the following:
"20.—(1) Where a person who is either an officer or servant of the Council is—
(a) nominated as a member of Seanad Éireann or as a candidate for election to Dáil Éireann or to the Assembly of the European Communities,
(b) elected as a member of Seanad Éireann, or
(c) regarded pursuant to section 15 (inserted by the European Assembly Elections Act, 1984) of the European Assembly Elections Act, 1977, as having been elected to the Assembly of the European Communities to fill a vacancy,
he shall stand seconded from employment by the Council and shall not be paid by, or be entitled to receive from, the Council any remuneration or allowances—
(i) in case he is nominated as a member of, or elected to Seanad Éireann or is so elected to the Assembly of the European Communities, in respect of the period commencing on such nomination or election to Seanad Éireann or such election to the Assembly of the European Communities, as the case may be, and ending when he ceases to be a member of Seanad Éireann or that Assembly,
(ii) in case he is nominated as a candidate for election to Dáil Éireann or to the Assembly of the European Communities, in respect of the period commencing on his nomination and ending when he ceases to be a member of Dáil Éireann or that Assembly, as the case may be, or fails to be elected or withdraws his candidature, as may be appropriate.".
This is part of a long story. I am beginning to have hope that the story might not run for too much longer. Senators and many Ministers are now aware of the statutes that provide that mere nomination for the Seanad has the effect of removing a member from many a State-sponsored board or suspending without pay an officer or servant of many semi-State bodies. As was pointed out on Committee Stage, such a nomination can be made without the consent of the person concerned and there is no provision for withdrawal from the Seanad election.
This particular drawback was placed beyond any doubt in the Seanad general election of 1982. It is perhaps ironic that it was placed beyond any doubt in regard to a case that arose from the nomination of a candidate by the Irish Dental Association. That candidate was also nominated or was capable of being nominated by her Oireachtas party. She was unable to withdraw from the contest for which she had been nominated by the Irish Dental Association. This matter was not only determined by the Seanad Returning Officer but was dealt with by the judicial referee. The judicial referee upheld the ruling of the Seanad Returning Officer that there was no provision under the Seanad Electoral Act which provided that prior consent to nomination was required.
It is the view both of Ministers who have spoken here in the House and of Senators that this is a general matter and should be tackled by the amendment of the Seanad Electoral Acts. It appears to me that a simple amendment of section 27, subsection (2) (c) of the Seanad Electoral Panel Members Act, 1947, would remove this matter from the debate of this House forever, rather than having it as something that recurs every two or three months.
We have put forward this amendment because it is now the view of all groups in this House that the Seanad cannot continue merely to raise this matter and then receive assurances of Ministers and then have the matter sink back into neglect again. This amendment is being put forward, and similar amendments will be put forward on every Bill that contains provisions of this sort, until the Government reach the conclusion that it is easier to amend the Seanad Electoral Acts than to have to deal with this matter on every enactment that contains the particular matter. It is for that reason that we have put down this amendment on Report Stage, not an attempt to embarrass the present Minister, not in an attempt to create possible conflict between the Dáil and the Seanad in relation to this Bill but because all groups in the Seanad now see this as the best way of resolving a longstanding problem.
I also wish to support this amendment. As the previous speaker has rightly said, it is indeed an old chestnut and it has come before us from different Ministers of different Governments from time to time. Certainly we here would like to have it resolved once and for all. I recall the incident that the previous speaker referred to. In fact there was a similar incident I think with the IDA in the same election. It caused confusion and concern and it was felt to be unfair at the time but in so far as this amendment is concerned it would seem to me that it could happen in the future that a member of the Dental Council might be given a nomination to contest and that being so, he would have to vacate his place on the Dental Council and this would be unfair. I support totally the points made by the previous speaker. As I said, we have discussed this in the past and hopefully the Minister will see fit on this occasion to remedy the situation which seems unfair.
As Senator Dooge said, this type of amendment receives support from all sides in this House and I would like to join in supporting it. It is indeed a matter which has been raised on numerous Bills. Even in my experience in this House it has formed part of the debates on quite a number of Bills already and it is not good enough to allow it to be mentioned every time and for various assurances to be given and then for the matter to die until it is raised on the next piece of legislation that contains this provision. So, I would very strongly support this amendment as being a way of dealing with it on this Bill but I would also hope very strongly that the matter would be dealt with in principle by amendment of the Electoral Acts.
Yes, it is also an old chestnut of mine. I would like to confirm to Senator Fallon that this amendment refers to an officer or servant of the council, not necessarily a member. Senator Dooge dealt specifically with the nomination procedure for nominating bodies for the Seanad and we have always felt that that is an anomaly in itself from which you cannot withdraw. But even in the case of an Oireachtas nomination, either for the Seanad or a nomination from a political party for the Dáil, the process of nomination seemed to have excluded people from various boards, semi-State boards or various councils, and that principle is wrong. I accept that if the person is elected it would be incompatible for him to serve on the two and do it appropriately, but the actual nomination procedure is what concerns me. This has discriminated against quite a lot of people in their livelihood. People have lost their jobs by just being nominated although they were not afterwards successful in being elected.
The Minister in a previous Bill accepted everything we are saying now and accepted everything that is in the amendment. Unfortunately, this Bill also slipped through the net and contains the same exclusion of people who we feel should be included in the democratic process of representation either for the Dáil or Seanad. The public have little enough respect for politicians as it is and politicians have similarly little respect for people who might like to get into the same field and for that reason this amendment of its own right should stand the perusal of draftsmen and the Government in considering any amendments that they may need in other areas. I know that the Minister feels as we do in this regard and so I hope that he can agree to the amendment.
I can confirm that the matter has been raised and discussed in some detail at Government. It was agreed on an informal basis at Government that the Minister for the Environment and the other appropriate Ministers should review the question of members of boards and officers and — if I may use the out-dated term—servants of boards, being debarred on nomination for election to the Seanad even though the nomination is without their consent. Admittedly, the amendment now offered is relatively restrictive. However, it is acceptable to me. It is time that we created a precedent. Admittedly it could be argued that not all Government Departments have had the opportunity to consider the Bill in detail and the general implications affecting other major statutes already enacted. I can assure the House that my colleagues in Government have given this complaint quite a sympathetic hearing in the case of other legislation but of course that will be another day's work and a long day's work in that regard. Of course, the amendment as drafted has the general support of all Members of the House, as I understand it, and it refers to Seanad Éireann, to Dáil Éireann and to elections to the European Assembly. It does not refer to a person being nominated without his consent to the European Commission.
We can have that for another day's work.
There are about four running.
I move amendment No. 9:
In page 12, line 14, to delete "(a) or paragraph (b)" and substitute "(i) or paragraph (ii)".
Senator Robinson argued that this section required amendment to make it perfectly clear that entitlement to registration in the register of dental specialists is a conditional entitlement, namely, conditional on such a register being established by the council. She suggested that a dentist who satisfied the conditions specified in subsection (1) could say to the council that he was entitled to be registered on the register of dental specialists and that he could request the council to set up the register and, if they did not do so, he could go to court and look for a mandamus on it.
Senator Dooge joined Senator Robinson in asking the Minister to look at the section before Report Stage to remove all danger that the power of the council to establish a register of dental specialists, which was clearly intended to be discretionary, could not be interpreted by the courts as being without discretion.
I pointed out at that stage of the Committee debate that the essential point was that section 30 was applicable following the establishment of the register by the council under section 29. Section 30 was qualified by the opening phrase "Subject to the provisions of this Act" and I said that I would consult the parliamentary draftsman to see whether the section could be amended to make the position explicit. The draftsman now considers that the fears of the Senators are not only valid but he has suggested that this amendment would meet those fears and accordingly I commend it to the House.
I think amendment No. 10 as put forward by the Minister completely meets the point made on Committee Stage by Senator Robinson and removes any doubts that were there about the operation of the original section. It is an improvement to the Bill.
I move amendment No. 11:
In page 18, line 24, after "education" to insert "including continuing dental education".
Amendment 11 relates to section 34. It is the responsibility of the Dental Council to ensure the adequacy and suitability of post-graduate education and training. On Committee Stage I spoke about the extreme importance of continuing dental education. I have put down this amendment for consideration by the Minister from the point of view that it might be desirable to stress that post-graduate education does include and should include continuing dental education. If it would not do any harm to this Bill or any other Bill, it might be as well to stress this very important area.
I might say that I also raised on the discussion of section 34 the position of the new Dental Council in regard to the board on post-graduate medical and dental education, as to whether, in fact, because that had been established under the Medical Practitioners Act, it would still have a dominance of medical over dental post-graduate education. Since then I have had the opportunity to study that section of the Medical Practitioners Act at leisure and in quiet rather than in the House here. I am perfectly satisfied that while it is established under that Act, that this post-graduate board is not in any way tied to the apron strings of the Medical Council. I no longer have that doubt, but I invite the Minister's opinion on the desirability of stressing continual dental education by accepting this amendment.
I would like to take the opportunity to congratulate Senator James Dooge and Senator Michael Ferris on proposing this amendment. Anyone who has been through the processing of medical or dental education — perhaps particularly medical education — is all too aware of the tremendous emphasis that there has been on examinations. Twenty years ago when I resurrected the junior hospital staff group of Northern Ireland and became its chairman it was following the writing of an article in which I said that barely fertile and almost 40 we eventually collapsed in a heap, so-called fully trained to do our life's work but it was doubtful if we had retained the enthusiasm of the early youth when we had started out on this enterprise.
The importance about including the need to emphasise "including continuing dental education" is that to some extent it takes away from the emphasis placed on examinations and certification and puts an obligation on the council to ensure that there are facilities available for updating dental practice and giving those who do practice on the periphery —if one may use that term—the opportunity to see what is going on in the centre and to take back with them what is relevant to their practice. That is not to say that I subscribe to the view of "centres of excellence". I think there is just as much excellent work done on the periphery as in the centre. I have found that term particularly offensive in recent years and perhaps more so since I moved from the centre to the periphery. It is in that context and the need to sustain an interest throughout professional life in what is happening in advances and in also trying to give the people who have the power to control the direction that those advances are taking, an insight into the relevance of their endeavours as they relate to practice on the ground that I certainly support and welcome the proposal which is brought before us in the names of Senator Dooge and Senator Ferris for including the term "continuing dental education".
I know the Minister has his problems with the post-graduate medical and dental board and its role in continuing post-graduate education. I would ask the Minister to give powers to this council and later amend the Medical Act and give the powers over medicine back to the Medical Council and eliminate a further layer of bureaucracy. I would appeal to the Minister to have the courage to let the Dental Council look after this area.
One of the issues which has exercised my mind right through the past 18 months has been the duplication of effort in very many areas of the health services whether in terms of nurse training or doctor training or post-graduate training or psychiatric nursing training. In whole areas there is massive duplication of effort and work at enormous expense. There is a real problem in accepting the amendment which I am very reluctant to accept and it is that if I were to assign statutory responsibility to the Dental Council for continuing education it would in a very real way cut across the responsibilities and the activities of the post-graduate board and the structure which it is developing as of now in this area. Whether it is developing it to the extent required by the dental profession is another matter; it is involved in the area. If I were to accept the amendment, effectively I would have two bodies with responsibility in the area. It would be another blurring of the lines of responsibility which would be detrimental.
On Committee Stage Senator Dooge referred to the two aspects of post-graduate education, namely post-graduate in the formal sense and what is known as continuing education. He raised the question of the position of the post-graduate medical and dental board in relation to dental post-graduate education. He pointed out correctly that the Bill would give autonomy to the dental profession but responsibility for promoting and coordinating post-graduate dental education would still rest with the post-graduate board which he said was set up under the umbrella of the Medical Council and is subsidiary to it. He inquired whether provision could not be made to alter the status of the board to make it a board jointly appointed by the Medical Council and the Dental Council or whether there could be a separate post-graduate dental board set up under the Bill.
I will clarify the precise status of the post-graduate medical and dental board. Its statutory basis lies in the Medical Practitioners Act of 1978, but this is only because that legislation at the time provided a convenient vehicle when the decision was taken to establish the board. The post-graduate medical dental board is entirely and completely an independent body; it is not subject to the Medical Council in any way; the board's membership is appointed by the Minister of the day after consultation with the Medical Council and after consultation with the Dental Board which will now be replaced by the Dental Council under the Bill. Other appropriate bodies and organisations are also consulted. Its functions are to promote and co-ordinate development of post-graduate medical and dental education and training. These have been interpreted as covering the continuing responsibility for both formal post-graduate education and continuing education itself. Therefore the board is excercising its responsibility in regard to the medical and the dental fields.
I should point out that in carrying out its remit in relation to the continuing education in the dental field, the post-graduate board has set up a dental committee to advise it on continuing education, and there are representatives of the Irish Dental Association on this committee. They have developed a set of proposals relating to the provision of continuing education for dentists. These are based on the establishment of a structure of regional committees to promote and co-ordinate the provision of continuing education at local level. Two such committees have been set up on a pilot basis, one covering the north-west and the other covering the south and mid-west. Among other activities have been the development by the board with the chief executive officers of the health boards of some policy guidelines in relation to the provision of continuing education and the making available to post-graduate centres and health boards of grants for the purchase of audio-visual equipment for continuing education purposes and so on.
To that extent the post-graduate board is involved. At this stage, I could not accept the amendment because it would open up a duplication of area, going back to the old Medical Research Council, the Medico-Social Research Board and the Economic and Social Research Institute and duplication among academics, teachers and universities, costing a great deal of money. People with great expertise are spread so thinly that I am afraid they would spend a lot of their time administering rather than being fundamentally involved in post-graduate work.
I am very grateful — the House I am sure is very grateful — to the Minister for the clear exposition that he has given of the position. To insist on this amendment would be to complicate the position that exists. However, I think it is clear from what the Minister has said that he will continue to keep under review this particular area and, if necessary, to come forward with proposals for some alternative method of organisation of this very important field of education and training.
Amendment No. 12. Amendments Nos. 13, 15 to 26, 31 and 32 are similar.
I am glad the Minister has followed my suggestion. I do not know if it is my amendment following his amendment, but I think the suggestion was mine when we were dealing with the matter on Committee Stage. He has agreed to raise the fine which a court of summary jurisdiction may impose on conviction to £1,000. I made the suggestion because I feel it is not an unreasonable level of fine to allow a court of summary jurisdiction to impose. Successive draftsmen have always had a worry as to the constitutionality of the extent of the jurisdiction of the District Court. I do not think the level of £1,000 should worry anybody on that front. I am glad that the Minister has agreed to the amendment.
I thank Senator Durcan because I undertook to look into the level of fines provided for in the Bill. I would also point out that I am increasing the £800 fine to £1,000 and, in the interests of uniformity, I have also raised to £1,000 the fine of £500 provided under section 50. I thank the Senator for bringing the matter to my attention.
I move amendment No. 16:
In page 27, line 9, to delete "£500" and substitute "£1,000".
I move amendment No. 18:
In page 27, line 26, to delete "£800", and substitute "£1,000".
I move amendment No. 20:
In page 28, line 15, to delete "£800", and substitute "£1,000".
I move amendment No. 22:
In page 28, line 35, to delete "£800", and substitute "£1,000".
I move amendment No. 24:
In page 28, line 40, to delete "£800", and substitute "£1,000".
I move amendment No. 26:
In page 30, line 10, to delete "£800", and substitute "£1,000".
I move amendment No. 27:
In page 30, line 37, to delete "an experimental period" and substitute "a limited period".
We had a discussion on Committee Stage in regard to the question of the use of the term "experimental period", an unfortunate borrowing from the English Act of 1957, which I think we should, if possible, do away with. I have put down a simple amendment here, that instead of "experimental period" we should use "limited period". It does not change the sense, it does not change the legal effect of section 56, but I think it is less offensive and less liable to misinterpretation.
I appreciate the point made by Senator Dooge and I am prepared to accept the amendment.
Amendment No. 28. Amendment No. 29 is an alternative to amendment No. 28. Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 to be taken together. If amendment No. 28 is accepted amendment No. 29 may not be moved.
This section provides that the council will print, publish and place on sale copies of any register maintained by them at intervals of not more than five years and will print, publish and place on sale a supplement to each register in every other year. This point was made by Senator Dooge on Committee Stage that while the clear intention seemed to be that in each year in the intervals between publication of the register a supplement would be published, the phrase "in every other year" also had the meaning of "every alternative year." Therefore, I have consulted with the parliamentary draftsman and the latter has drafted this amendment which makes the intention of the section absolutely clear. The situation is now fully clarified to everybody's satisfaction.
The intent of amendment No. 29 in my name and that of Senator Ferris is exactly the same as that of amendment No. 28, and I think the effects of both of them are the same. If I were required to argue for my own amendment I would interpret the principle of Occam's razor: entia non sint multiplicanda. Things should not be unnecessarily multiplied. In fact, I feel that amendment No. 29 achieves the effect of amendment No. 28 with fewer words. In my book that makes it a better amendment.
I will have great pleasure in informing the parliamentary draftsman of this because that is precisely what the situation is. You can take it as a classic example of parliamentary draftmanship. I would be prepared to accept amendment No. 29 on the basis of amendment No. 28 falling.
I am grateful to the Minister for that response. If in fact the parliamentary draftsman, when driven onto the defensive, manages to produce an argument which restores amendment No. 28, the Seanad will not object to any changes made in Dáil Éireann.
May I take this opportunity of congratulating the Minister for actually accepting something that takes fewer words than is normally provided? It is a rare and refreshing experience.
I move amendment No. 29:
In page 31, line 8, to delete "every other year" and substitute "each intervening year".
Senator Dooge argued that the assignment of additional functions to the council under this section would be tantamount to legislative action. He pointed out that the Bill laid out the functions of the council and the nature and scope of these had been debated at length. Under this section the Minister of the day, however, could assign functions other than those in the Bill and this would in effect amount to legislating without bringing the matter before the Houses of the Oireachtas.
Senator Dooge suggested that the most appropriate way to bring the Oireachtas into the picture would be to have assignments of additional functions done by ministerial order which would be subject to annulment by the Houses of the Oireachtas. I undertook at that stage to do this and, accordingly, I have drafted an appropriate amendment for Report Stage.
I am grateful to the Minister for meeting this point. I think the House should always be careful in regard to the delegation of legislation and should make it subject to review wherever possible. We will be discussing tomorrow morning giving a charge to the Joint Committee on Legislation to examine the whole position in this regard. However, I think, here we have given an example of good practice which improves the Bill.
I am given to understand that the Bill requires the Dental Council, or the dental profession, to provide reasonable and adequate training for those other than dentists. I have in mind the employment of technicians. I am also given to understand — the Minister may correct me if I am wrong — that he had consultations with this sector of the profession when he was preparing the Bill. I would like an assurance from the Minister that if any difficulty is experienced in the working of the Bill in respect of dental technicians, he will meet them to discuss any matter they might consider relevant.
I am grateful to Senator Kirwan for raising the matter at this stage. I will be most anxious to meet all the parties concerned. I have had a number of informal representations and some meetings with individual representatives of dental technicians, there being a number of bodies involved. Unfortunately, these consultations have been of an ad hoc nature of necessity, but I can assure Senator Kirwan that I will be most anxious about the implementation of the Bill and I will ensure that in future the council will bear these representations in mind and I will be pleased to meet those who wish to meet me on this question.
I move amendment No. 32:
In page 32, line 32, to delete "£800", and substitute "£1,000".
Amendments Nos. 33 and 34 may be taken together.
On amendment No. 34, I am glad the Minister has followed my suggestion in this regard. My suggestion on Committee Stage was that the Minister amend section 68 by the addition of a subsection similar to that which is attached to section 52 which would allow the institution of summary proceedings after the normal six month period. The Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, allows the period of six months within which a summons may be issued from the date of the commission of an offence. The point I made on Committee Stage was that offence, under section 68, offences which relate to registers kept by the council, would be difficult to detect, the point being that the six month period could elapse before such an offence could be detected. If that were the case, as the offence is not a continuing offence, then it would not be possible to prosecute somebody in a court of summary jurisdiction. I think that is a wise way in which offences of this nature should be prosecuted, and I am glad the Minister has accepted my suggestion and introduced an amendment similar to mine.
I was not here on Committee Stage and I did not hear the no doubt persuasive arguments of Senator Durcan with regard to this matter. This is by no means a unique provision to be putting into a Bill. A lot of legislation dealing with things like safety at work and so on has been drafted with sections like this included. Leaving aside for the moment the particular problem identified by Senator Durcan with regard to the question of entries on registers and the problems of proving that within the six month period, I do not think that the extension of six months in the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act to two years is something that should be done generally. One of the benefits of courts of summary jurisdiction is that they are courts of summary jurisdiction and the matter is dealt with quickly. You must be brought before the court fairly quickly or else you cannot be prosecuted. That is a good principle to follow. I do not think it is a good principle to follow in our ordinary District Courts that offences can be held up and there can be delays in the prosecution of offences for a period of two years, because my experience is that if you allow people the opportunity of having two years in which to institute proceedings, they will go to the very last moment of those two years before actually instituting the proceedings. The longer I am dealing with bureaucracies the better I understand that the way in which to get anything done well is to put a very short time limit on it. In that way you ensure that people will meet their responsibilities in a quick manner when the alleged offence is fresh in everybody's mind. While not objecting to this particular insertion, the Minister and the House would do well to consider carefully before agreeing to the extension of the six month period to two years in any other case.
May I thank Senator Durcan for raising this matter in the first instance? The point was well made. I will bear in mind the point made by Senator O'Leary in relation to other legislation which will come before the House to convey that point to the parliamentary draftsman. If Senator Durcan is agreeable, may I suggest that amendment No. 33 be agreed and that accordingly his amendment would fall?
Senator Durcan allowed ten of his amendments to fall.
I will withdraw my amendment in favour of Senator Durcan's.
I move amendment No. 34:
In page 32, between lines 34 and 35, to insert the following subsection:
"(3) Notwithstanding the provisions of section 10 (4) of the Petty Sessions (Ireland) Act, 1851, proceedings for an offence under this section may be instituted at any time within two years from the commission of the offence.".
There are a few points which were raised on Committee Stage and on which amendments were not put down on Report Stage. They were matters which the Minister indicated that he would look at between Committee Stage and Report Stage. I am rising now to enumerate what I think are the more important of these points, and on these particular points I would be glad if the Minister could give us any information now available to him.
The first of these points relates to the question on section 8 of the reference to stamp duty exemption. Here I am looking for as perfect a format in regard to this Bill as possible. I would be glad to know from the Minister if it is possible to improve the consistency, the power of the Bill, for the Bill to stand alone without reference. The second point I would be glad to have the Minister's comments on is in regard to the question of mobility which I raised on section 19, at columns 166 to 168 of the Committee Stage report. I would be glad if the Minister could indicate what is the degree of mobility under this Bill and whether tying in the officers of the new Dental Council to the local government system in fact is a limitation rather than bringing them under the Superannuation Act, 1963, which applies on scheduling to the whole of the public sector. The third point is the question which arose under a number of sections but especially under section 38, whether in fact it would be possible for the Dental Council or for the Fitness to Practise Committee to employ an assesssor to assist their deliberations, who would not be not just a legal adviser to the board itself, who are, as it were, the prosecution in the case, but a legal assessor whose opinions would be made known to both sides in order to assist in arriving at a just decision.
The final point I would like to raise relates to the relationship between sections 54 and 55. There was a very long debate in this House on Committee Stage on sections 54, 55 and 56. The Minister stated on Committee Stage at column 319, Volume 104 of the Official Report of 7 June last:
My strong view is that in determining the nature of the dental work that a member of a class would undertake, it would be within the power of the council to specify particular types of patients and particular forms of control. I was slightly taken aback when I was assured there are some 300 known classes of illness which one might suffer from in that regard. The Council will have a major role in this determination, but equally it will be obliged to have the consent of the Minister for Health of the day so there is mutual interaction in the setting up of the scheme.
I would like to ask the Minister in the light of his review of sections 54 and 55 and, possibly section 56 since Committee Stage whether he is absolutely satisfied that there is no limitation under section 54 (2) in regard to the reasonable restrictions that the council may make in drawing up a scheme in regard to the question of classes of patients and in regard possibly even to such matters of oral conditions. I think the Minister would agree that there can be a very great difference between the situation when we are concerned with the fitting of a complete set of dentures in conjunction with natural the other hand the fitting of a partial set of dentures in conjunction with natural teeth. I would be glad if the Minister could give as firm an assurance as he can that, in fact, the operation of section 55 (2) will not be hindered in any way by any of the provisions of section 55. These are the four points I would like to raise at this time.
First, the question of stamp duty and the issue relating to the Finance Act, 1895 is quite a complex matter. Section 7 (8) of the Bill specifies that section 12 of the Finance Act, 1895, shall not apply to the transfer of property or rights from the Dental Board to the Dental Council. If it were to apply, stamp duty would be payable on the transaction itself, Senator Dooge inquired whether the Bill could be drafted in any way that would avoid the reference, namely, by re-enactment of section 12 of the Finance Act, 1895. Our legal adviser and the parliamentary draftsmen have been consulted in some detail about this matter and they say that to try to meet the Senator's wishes would pose very great difficulty. Section 12 of the 1895 Act would have to be repeated in the Bill and a provision inserted that it would not apply. There would then be the problem of subsequent legislation which has been amended or modified or has relevance to section 12 of the 1895 Act. To give a complete picture this would also have to be repeated in the Bill and we felt the outcome would have been very cumbersome and difficult.
There is also the point that this legislation relating to stamp duty on property transactions is only one part of a legal structure dealing with the application of stamp duty and to re-enact it in this Bill would be to take it out of its proper context. Accordingly, the legal adviser is also of the view that it would be very confusing to the people who would be concerned with the provisions in the Bill, namely, solicitors, conveyancers, accountants, the Revenue Commissioners and so on. Therefore the formula used in section 7 (8) is a very tried one with which most people are now reasonably familiar.
Finally, I would make the point that the provision in section 7 (8) will have application only in a "once-off situation, that is, when the property of the board is transferred to the council. It will have no relevance thereafter. These are the general observations I make on the particular stamp duty point raised by Senator Dooge.
Section 7 (9) covers the transfer of staff from the Dental Board to the Dental Council by providing that the council will take over any contracts of service which the board have entered into. Senator Dooge, understandably, queried the need for this provision in view of subsection (6) under which all contracts entered into by the board will be taken over by the council. Again, I am advised that subsection (6) can be interpreted as covering contracts of service and that it can be argued that subsection (9) is unnecessary. However, our legal adviser is of the opinion that it is important in this Bill to make it absolutely clear that the position of employees, as distinct from contracts generally, of the Dental Board is protected, and it is considered that subsection (9) should be retained to highlight this.
Equally in terms of mobility the question of the application of the local government superannuation scheme to employees of the Dental Council arises. Understandably, Senator Dooge inquired whether full mobility was possible under the scheme, mentioning in particular the universities. The scheme provides for automatic mobility between the local authorities, the health boards, health corporate bodies, joint bodies, civil service, the teaching services, our Defence Forces and our harbour authorities. In addition, the Minister for the Environment can approve transfer of pensionable service to other bodies which have comparable schemes. A large number of semi-State bodies have been approved in this way, as have the constituent colleges of the NUI and Trinity. There are some bodies, for example, CIE, that do not participate in the mobility scheme — a very big issue in itself — but in such cases mobility could be obtained if the bodies concerned were to pursue the matter and to modify their own pension schemes, where necessary, so that they are compatible with the local government scheme. In recent months I have approved a number of transferrals and they are working well.
Regarding the services of a legal assessor, Senator Dooge referred to the provision in the United Kingdom in the Dentists Act, 1957, whereby the disciplinary committee set up under the Act have available in all proceedings before them an assessor to advise on any questions of law arising. He inquired whether the introduction of a similar arrangement had been considered in relation to the proceedings of the Fitness to Practise Committee to be set up under the Bill. The question of whether provision should be made in the Bill for the appointment of a legal assessor when the Fitness to Practise Committee holds an inquiry was considered by our legal adviser. It was decided and generally agreed that a blanket provision of this type was not required and it would be preferable to give the Dental Council power to obtain the services of a barrister or a solicitor to assist the council itself, or any of its committees, in any case where it was considered necessary. This power has been given to the council in section 57. This provides that the council may make and carry out arrangements with any person to assist it, or any of its committees, in the discharge of its functions. Apart from the general principle involved, this arrangement will mean that funds will not have to be expended on an on-going basis for legal assistance in cases where the Restrictive Practices Committee considers that this will not be required. We are all aware of the costs of seeking legal advice on a permanent established basis.
Finally, I will deal with one outstanding matter raised by Senator Dooge. This is the question relating to the council's powers under section 54 (2) and the provisions of section 55 (2) and (3). Appropriately enough, at the very kernel of the Bill Senator Dooge has raised the question of a limitation, as he used the phrase "no limitation on reasonable restrictions". I accept the point he made relating to classes of patients and relating to forms of treatment. These provisions would not inhibit the Council from determining in a particular scheme under section 54 (2) that, for instance, the work done by denturists would not extend to certain types of patients, such as haemophiliacs or mentally handicapped persons, or to persons who might suffer from specified diseases or indeed particular conditions of the mouth that they, would be excluded from dealing with those. Certainly, there is provision there and the council will have its role adequately safeguarded and secured under this provision.
On the question that the Bill do now pass, there are a few remarks I should like to make on the contents of the Bill. Apart from anything else that is all you will allow me to talk about on this particular Stage. The contents of this Bill are a reflection of a thorough debate: there was a long Second Stage, a Committee Stage that spread over three sitting days, involving eight hours of debate, and a Report Stage which has lasted for two hours. There will be agreement that the Bill as it leaves this House is a better Bill than the Bill that entered this House. This improved Bill is the result of co-operation. On my count there were 27 amendments made on Committee Stage and 23 amendments made today on Report Stage. This is a remarkable feature, and I want to pay a very sincere tribute to the Minister for the attitude he has taken to this Bill. There is always a temptation for a Minister who is as busy as the present Minister, to come into this House in the hope that he can get the Bill through as quickly as possible, but the present Minister sat here patiently, listening, discussing, putting forward his point of view. In this regard we have had from him an object lesson in approaching the question of legislation as such.
In the Bill as it leaves this House we now have a new departure and we hope that all those responsible, not just the members of the new Dental Council, but the whole of the dental profession will react to this new dispensation and that we will see in the years to come an attack on the very serious problem of dental health in Ireland and the question of the preventive aspects of dental care. That really will reflect a minor revolution in our attack on this particular problem.
I thank the Members of the House for their outstanding co-operation in the enactment of this legislation by Seanad Éireann. The approach of the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition in the House and their colleagues was an object lesson to me of how it should be done, and as one who has been a Member of the Houses of the Oireachtas since 1969 I had not thought it possible that I would have been able to sit here and in a spirit of outstanding co-operation pilot through a complex Bill of this nature. However, my faith has been somewhat restored in parliamentary reform and the operation of our democratic system in this regard.
I thank the dental profession and the very many other bodies who made innumerable, understandable representations to all sides of the House in relation to this Bill. These representations were received in a spirit of openness and frankness and not without some contention at times. This is the way of the democratic process. I thank, unusually perhaps, our Departmental staffs in the Department of Health who have worked for many years in the long process of development of this Bill: Mr. Joe O'Rourke, Jerry Deevy, Paddy Byrne, our administrative senior staff in the Department of Health, and, of course, I should like to thank our professional dental staff who have been most involved and helpful in advice and guidance on the professional aspects of the Bill itself.
I thank you, a Chathaoirligh, for the opportunity to present this Bill to Seanad Éireann. I thank the Members for their co-operation at all times.